Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Of vivacity as dependiug on the choice of words.

ed in their mythology to the gods, it is of little or no use to us moderns *

65

ANOTHER tribe of metonymies, which exhibits things living for things lifeless, is when the possessor is substituted for his possessions. Of this we have an example in the gospel : “ Wo unto you, scribes and pha

risees, hypocrites, for ye devour the families of wi“ dows.”—Here the word families is used for their means of subsistence it. Like to this is an expression in Balaam's prophecy concerning Israel : “He shall “ eat 'up the 'nations 'his enemies I."

A THIRD tribe of metonymies, which often presents us with animate instead of inanimate objects, is, when

* Even when such tropes occur in ancient authors, they can scarcely be translated into any modern tongue, as was hinted on Part First in regard to the phrase “ Vario Marte pugnatum est." Another example of the same thing, “ Sine Cerrere et Baccho fri. get

Venus." + Mátt. xxii, 14. The noun oixies may be rendered either families or bouses. The last, though used by our translators, hath here a double disadvantage. First, it is a trope formed upon a trope (which rarely hath a good effect), the house for the family, the thing containing for the thing contained, and the family for their means of living ; secondly, ideas are introduced which are incompatible. There is nothing improper in speaking of a person or family being devoured, but to talk of devouring a house'is absurd. It may be destroyed, demolished, undermined, but not devoured.

t Deut. xxiv. 8.

Sect. II.

Rhetorical tropes....Part II. Tropes conducive to vivacity.

the concrete is made to signify the abstract; as the fool used for folly, the knave for knavery, the philosopher for philosophy, I shall illustrate this by some examples. Dryden hath given us one of this kind that is truly excellent :

The slavering cudden, propt upon his staff,
Stood ready gaping with a grinning laugh,
To welcome her awake, nor durst begin
To speak, but wisely kept the fool within *.

The whole picture is striking. The proper words, every one of them, are remarkably graphical as well as the metonymy, with which the passage concludes. Another from the same hand,

Who follow next a double danger bring,

Not only hating David but the king t. As David himself was king, both the proper name and the appellative would point to the same object, were they to be literally interpreted. But the oppo. sition here exhibited manifestly shows, that the last term, the king, is employed by metonymy to denote the royalty. The sense therefore is, that they have not only a personal hatred to the man that is king, but a detestation of the kingly office. A trope of this kind ought never to be introduced, but when the contrast, as in the present example, or something in the expression, effectually removes all obscurity and dan.

Cymon and Iphigenia.

+ Absalom and Achitophel.

Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.

[ocr errors]

ger of mistake.

In the passage last quoted, there is an evident imitation of a saying recorded by historians, of Alexander the Great, concerning two of his courtiers, Craterus and Hephestion : “ Craterus," said he, “ loves the king, but Hephestion loves Alexander.Grotius hath also copied the same mode of expression, in a remark which he hath made, perhaps with more ingenuity. than truth, on the two apostles, Peter and John. The attachment of John, he observes, was to Jesus, of Peter to the Messiah *. Accordingly their master gave the latter the charge of his church, the former that of his family, recommending to him in particular the care of Mary his mother. The following sentiment of Swift is somewhat similar:

I do the most that friendship can;
I hate the viceroy, love the man.

The viceroy for the viceroyalty. I shall only add two examples more in this way: the first is from Addison, who, speaking of Tallard when taken prisoner by the

allies, says,

An English muse is touch'd with gen'rous woe,
And in th' unhappy man forgets the foet.

The foe, that is, his state of hostility with regard to us at the time : for the second I shall again recur to Dryden,

* Annotations in Johan. Intr.

+ Campaign.

Sect. II.

Rhetorical tropes... Part II. Tropes conducive to vivacity.

A tyrant's power in rigour is exprest,
The father yearns in the true prince's breast.

The father, to denote fatherly affection, or the disposition of a father. In fine, it may justly be affirmed of this whole class of tropes, that as metaphor in general hath been termed an allegory in epitomé, such metaphors and metonymies as present us with thing s animate in the room of things lifeless, are prosopopeias in miniature.

But it will be proper here to obviate an objection against the last mentioned species of metonymy, an objection which seems to arise from what hath been advanced above. Is it possible, may one say, that the concrete put for the abstract should render the express sion livelier, and that the abstract put for the concrete should do the same? Is it not more natural to conclude, that, if one of these tropes serve to invigorate the style, the reverse must doubtless serve to flatten it? But this apparent inconsistency will vanish on a nearer inspection. It ought to be remembered, that the cases are comparatively few in which either trope will answer better than the proper term, and the few which suit the one method, and the few which suit. the other, are totally different in their nature. To affirm that, in one identical case, methods quite opposite would produce the same effect, might, with some appearance of

reason, be charged with inconsistency; but that, in cases not identical, nor even similar, con

Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.

trary methods might be necessary for effecting the same purpose, is nowise inconsistent.

But possibly the objector will argue on the principles themselves severally considered, from which, according to the doctrine now explained, the efficacy of the tropes ariseth : “ If,” says he, “ the abstract for the concrete “confers vivacity on the expression, by concentring “ the whole attention on that particular with which " the subject is most intimately connected, doth it not “ lose as much on the other hand, by presenting us “ with a quality instead of a person, an intelligible for “ a sensible, an inanimate for a living object?" If this were the effect, the objection would be unanswerable. But it is so far otherwise, that in all such instances, by ascribing life, motion, human affections, and actions, to the abstract, it is in fact personified, and thus gains in point of energy the one way, without losing any thing the other. The same thing holds of all the congenial tropes, the dole for the donor, and the rest. In like manner, when the concrete is used for the abstract, there is, in the first place, a real personification, the subject being in fact a mere quality both inanimate and insensible: nor do we lose the particularity implied in the abstract, because, where this trope is judiciously used, there must be something in the sentence which fixes the attention specially on that quality. Thus, to recur to the preceding examples, when David and the king, though known to be the same person, are contradistinguished in the same line, the mind is laid under a necessity of considering the

« AnteriorContinuar »